Saturday, August 20, 2022
Start/Finish: Appalachia Trailhead
Start time: 4:16am
End time: 11:02pm
Total time: 18:46
After a restless night sleeping in my car listening to a mouse chew on food wrappers, I was awake for good at 3:30am and at the trailhead by 4am. The trailhead itself was completely full, with people actively unloading and dropping off hikers, and I had to park on the side of the road a little bit beyond the lot. I finalized my gear and then headed out, starting my watch at the trailhead sign at 4:16am. I hiked by headlamp up Airline trail, then over to Short Line. By the time I hit the Kings Ravine intersection, it was light enough I didn’t need my headlamp. I made the summit of Mt Adams by 6:53am, and then descended Star Lake; I crossed paths with at least a dozen people before I turned right onto Buttress.
Then it was a lot of technical descent to arrive at the Peabody River; I managed to find a rock hop crossing but it was hard. The water was running very high; I filtered water and kept going. Then it was Great Gulf Trail all along the river and then up the headwall, which was gushing with waterfalls. I topped out and hiked Gulfside up to Mt Washington, arriving at 10:54am. There was some huge bicycle race so the summit was completely mobbed. I quickly refilled my water and descended Tuckerman Ravine, dodging humans and dogs the entire way. Once I made it to Hermit Lake area, I gratefully turned onto the Boott Spur Link Trail to climb to Split Rock, arriving at 12:15pm.
As was the case the last two times I’d been here, this was the emotional low point of my Swan Song. The climb feels pointless and the descent down Boott Spur Trail took forever and feels more technical than it has any reason to be. I considered quiting, but I really wanted to experience Huntington Ravine in dry conditions so I kept going. At Pinkham Notch, I quickly brought out more food from the back of my pack and filled up my water, though as I correctly remembered – the water tasted sulferic; I choked the water down and eagerly filled up on tasty filtered water on my way up the Ravine. As I climbed up towards the slab climb, I met at least 10 people who had gotten to that point and then turned around, deciding it was more than they could handle. One man lectured me about how my trekking poles would get in my way; I said I’d be fine and kept walking. The climb up Huntington in dry conditions was quite fun and very manageable in terms of risk, though basic bouldering/rock climbing/slab climbing experience is needed to be comfortable. I met two people about to descend who were uncertain about the difficulty; I told them my experience, and they decided to descend via Lionshead instead.
I got to the summit of Nelson Crag at 4:11pm and enthusiastically headed down Wamsutta, eager to get back to the Great Gulf Trail and start my final headwall still in daylight. I made decent time in the gulf (thank you to the folks who did trail maintenance since last year) and then turned left to head up Madison Gulf Trail. The trail wasn’t as wet as last time, and I was happy to encounter two other people on the trail heading down. I made it up the headwall, around Star Lake, and over to the hut before I had to turn on my headlamp. I refilled on water at the hut and then climbed up Mt Madison in the dark. I summited at 8:39pm and then started the eternal descent via Watson Path.
I finally got below treeline more than a mile later, and tried to speed up. I forgot that this route follows Brookside and went perhaps 0.2mi on Watson before realizing my mistake and doublebacking to continue descending via Brookside. As I descended, my headlamp batteries continued to fade; I finally was forced to stop to switch out my AAAs maybe a mile and a half from the trailhead. I knew I’d be faster with more light, though I didn’t want to stop. I merged with Valley Way and made my way back to the trailhead, arriving back at the sign at 11:02pm.
2 thoughts on “Swan Song, Take Two”
What an amazing hike! Thanks for sharing!
That sounds like an amazing hike! Thanks, as always, for posting your experiences. I’ve tried to post comments (now and on previous posts), but they don’t seem to make it through the filter.
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